The leapfrog competition between the leading CRM vendors took another leap on Tuesday, as Microsoft announced it has reached an agreement to buy customer engagement provider Parature. The purchase gives the technology giant access to state-of-the-art knowledge base and self-service capabilities for online customers, rounding out Dynamics CRM’s abililty to offer a more complete set of tools for users looking to solve their own problems.
In a statement accompanying the announcement, Microsoft Dynamics CRM corporate vice president Bob Stutz said that the acquisition represented “a perfect fit for every business and will enable us to offer customers one of the best cloud-based solutions for customer self-service.” Terms of the deal were not announced, but there are reports the pricetag was $100 million.
Founded in 2000 by five Cornell students, the Herndon, Virginia-based Parature offers cloud-based customer service and has been backed by more than $30 million in funding from Valhalla Partners and others.
70 Million Users
The company currently has 70 million users worldwide -- twice what it had two years ago -- and its clients include over 500 known brands, such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and IBM. It offers an extendable knowledge base through portals available on Web sites or through Facebook, as well as support ticketing, social customer support and chat. The chat service is designed for both customer service and marketing to customers.
Parature, a Microsoft partner, will be integrated more fully into Dynamics CRM, but will also continue to be offered as a standalone service, as least for the time being. Microsoft said that further details about the Parature integration will be made public in the next few months.
With the Parature acquisition, Dynamics CRM can fill out its customer experience depth, particularly through a knowledge base that includes contextual search and predictive analysis, and through an integration into social media processes and profiles. Parature’s solution also offers support material, such as online videos or forms, and can monitor trends on social media.
Laura DiDio, an analyst with industry research firm Information Technology Intelligence Corp, described the Microsoft purchase as a “connect-the-dots purchase,” adding that “all of their competitors are also making needed acquisitions.” She said that the purchase “bolsters what Microsoft was already doing.”
She noted that, “rather than being a gamechanger, this purchase says ‘we’re staying in this game as a market leader.’”
The acquisition is only the latest in a stream of consolidations by CRM providers that are intended to provide perceived missing capabilities, as customer service and marketing continue to redefine themselves and blend together with expanded capabilities, and customers continue to expect a greater number of reliable response mechanisms across channels.
On Monday, enterprise performance provider Verint Systems agreed to buy competitor and leading customer service provider, Kana Software, for about half a billion dollars. This follows the announcement in December by Oracle that it was buying marketing software vendor Responsys for $1.5 billion. In fall of 2012, Microsoft bought marketing automation vendor MarketingPilot, and, in March of last year, it acquired social analytics firm Netbreeze.